There’s too much news out there

May 2, 2013

Overwhelmed with newsI’ve been distracted from my customary scan of news sources recently. Now that normal service is being resumed, I have noticed how many leadership stories that are reported every day

This week I would have liked to have followed-up on at least six stories:

The Bangladesh factory tragedy

Hundreds of workers died in a factory building collapse and subsequent fire. The over-simple treatment in the UK focuses on the poor pay and wage conditions of those in the Bangladeshi ‘sweat shops’. [Primark is said to be offering hardship aid to its supplier]. The globalising drive for cheap sources of supply is also being scrutinized. One dilemma to be addressed is the economic benefits of international trade as a country develops.

Krugman and Keynes

Paul Krugman continues to express the neo-Keynesian view that austerity programmes are inadequate for dealing with the exceptional social hardships of a severe recession. He believes the majority of economic commentators are missing the point. Ironically, Keynes was himself frustrated that conventional wisdom of the time seemed unable to appreciate his arguments. Krugman feels pretty much the same, offering this rebuttal of one counter argument. Economies, he says, are not like families. Income and spending are inter-dependent. If we all cut spending our incomes will fall too. He also rejects the idea that this is a leftist spending-spree mentality, but necessary a short-term measure for exceptional economic times.

Alfredo Saenz

Then there was the surprise retirement of Santander chief Alfredo Saenz who is expected to collect a goodbye present of around $100,000,000 rather than cop an investigation into his activities by the Supreme Court .

UKIP

Back in the UK, local elections this week [Thursday May 4th 2012] are seen as a measure of protest votes away from the traditional political parties. The anti-immigration and (even more anti – European Union) party UKIP is tipped to poll well under the leadership of its somewhat unconventional and ebullient Nigel Farage, who is also standing for Parliament in a by-election.

Larry David and his mother

An article by American humourist Larry David looked at how his mother would have reacted to his being arrested for terrorist offenses. It provoked a storm of protests. When told he had confessed she replied “well he probably didn’t want anyone else to suffer.” The article saves me from going any further with an idea I had for a blog which was going to be entitled “every mother is a potential terrorist”.

Reginald D Hunter

Anti-racist comedian Reginald D Hunter is in trouble for using racist language at a Football Association dinner. Or at least I thought it was humour with a political intent, in the tradition of Lenny Bruce.

Coping with overload

This ‘six for the price of one’ blog post is my attempt to cope with information overload. Hope you liked it. Normal service, as they say, may be resumed shortly…


BA’s Martin Broughton battles against US security practices

October 27, 2010

Last week Martin Broughton as chairman of Liverpool FC came to public awareness in the club’s battle against its American owners. This week as chairman of British Airways he springs into action against the practices of the US Transport Security Administration

The BBC reported his speech [October 27th 2010] to the UK Airport Operators’ Association annual conference. Mr Broughton argued that:

Some “completely redundant” airport security checks should be scrapped and the UK should stop “kowtowing” to US security demands. Practices such as forcing passengers to take off their shoes should be abandoned, and he questioned why laptop computers needed to be screened separately. He also criticised the US for imposing increased checks on US-bound flights but not on its own domestic services. The US stepped up security in January in the wake of an alleged bomb plot. “We should say, ‘we’ll only do things which we consider to be essential and that you Americans also consider essential’.”

A spokesperson for The US’s Transport Security Administration said it worked closely with its international partners to ensure the best possible security and that they “..constantly review and evolve our security measures based on the latest intelligence.”


Robert Quick resigns: A depressing leadership tale

April 10, 2009
Robert Quick

Robert Quick

Robert Quick resigns his role as head of counter-terrorism after details of a top secret document were filmed due to his casual way of handling his papers on the way to a meeting. The incident raises a depressing story of leadership and lack of it

The basic story is relatively simple to understand (although there are a few layers of political context which might also be worth considering). Bob Quick was until recently [9th April 2009] Deputy Commissioner with responsibilities for counter-terrorism at London’s metropolitan police force.

This week Commissioner Quick is filmed heading for a security briefing, holding a bundle of papers, in full view of the press, and maybe other surveillance cameras. The technology available revealed one document was exposing top secret information. This might have been a bit of a one-day story (tut tut, how careless, the man should be reprimanded). It turned out to have more significant implications.

Action against a major terrorist initiative was put at risk after enough details were revealed to the world’s press from the front page of the document which Quick was carrying as he entered No 10 Downing Street.

The action, allegedly against Al Qaida, was triggered prematurely to minimise damage which the security leak might have produced. Within 24 hours arrests were made in a coordinated action which seems to have achieved most of its goals. Damage limitation. Within another 24 hours Quick resigns over his security blunder.

Quite right too. Or was it?

Quite right too’ was the general reaction from press and public comment. ‘He had to go’. The case for the prosecution put pithily in the Sun (if you understand the Kwik-fit reference) with its front page shout You can’t quit quicker than a thick Quick quitter

Blundering police chief Bob Quick quit yesterday — in double-quick time. The anti-terror cop walked at 7.25am before he could be disciplined for compromising an operation to smash an al-Qaeda plot. It is thought fanatics were planning to cause carnage in Manchester within ten days.

A few dissenting voices were raised to the effect that he was a talented professional whose knowledge of terrorist threats to the country’s security was unparalleled. One letter to The Telegraph presented the minority contrary view

What a disaster to lose all those years of expertise because Bob Quick made one mistake, which I am sure he will never repeat. It once again shows the integrity of public servants and puts the politicians they serve in an even worse light. The Home Secretary should ask him to reconsider. By this resignation we are all much more vulnerable to the terrorists than as a result of the publication of a briefing document.

If this were a leadership exam ..

Tempting to see this as a suitable story for a leadership examination:

Complete this sentence drawing on your understanding of the resignation of counter-terrorist head Robert Quick

‘Bob Quick had to go because …’

Why the case is depressing me

Whipping off my black thinking hat and putting on a red emotional one I find the case a depressing one. Depressing because important leadership questions bothering me have been ignored. Depressing because in that respect the ‘story’ is like countless other leadership narratives, with focus on the immediate past and speculative commentary on the stupidity of the main characters and the potential enormity of the consequences of their actions.

So what’s missing?

Where to begin? On with a black professorial hat again, perhaps with a bit of green (for creative) trim. What’s missing is any evidence of leadership directed towards seeing this not as an isolated incident but as representative of a culture of sloppy security. What about action from home secretary Jacqui Smith? Maybe she is a bit distracted with recent personal problems, and maybe with the part played by the looming figure of London mayor Boris Johnson in the hiring and firing of police chiefs.

The Home Secretary (or maybe Gordon) would show welcome leadership with clear evidence of intent. It need not be more than a brief outline of action put in place (and not just another enquiry) to indicate what steps have been taken to protect sensitive information a bit better than as permitting a bundle of top secret papers to be ferried around in range of unwelcome cameras, and guarded only by a burly (about-to-be ex-) copper.

Acknowledgements

To Edward de Bono for his inspired little book on thinking hats, which he says he wrote on a long-haul plane journey.

To the kwik-fit ads which inspired the Sun headlines


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